Minneapolis started replacing police with civilian “violence interrupters” – it didn’t even last two months

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Well, that was fast.

Just two months after a civilian group began patrolling the streets of Minneapolis with the noble but arguably unachievable goal of preventing violence, the group has been sidelined.

As we previously reported, in September 2020 the city of Minneapolis launched a group known as “Violence Interrupters,” armed with “knowledge” and tasked with identifying and mediating conflicts before they became violent.

City Council representative Phillipe Cunningham told CBS Minnesota:

“The intention is for this to actually stop the violence, stop the guns from being shot so that the police don’t even have to show up in the first place.”

However, violence has continued to increase in a city that has already defunded its police and is seeking to slash police funding even more.

At this writing, there appears to be no specific information tabulated on conflicts resolved by the group.

One reporter for MPR News did note that the group linked arms and inserted itself in between police and protestors, and reportedly their pleas for the protestors to listen to police and disperse were not well received.

The same reporter also pointed out that the group had been met with mistrust from those they sought to assist, and that three people were shot mere blocks away from where the “Violence Interrupters” had gathered the night she interviewed them.

CBS Minnesota also reported that there were some neighbors in violent communities who wanted more than the “Violence Interruptors” were offering, such as more police presence as a deterrent to crime.

With no reported miraculous works under their belts, the “Violence Interrupters” are now on hiatus.

City officials claim that the group has stopped patrolling “because of weather and to conduct training.”

However, “Violence Interruptors” consultant Jamil Jackson told CBS Minnesota that the group was told to step back because of election season – a telling request, perhaps, given the stated goals and methods of the group and the great potential need for de-escalation at such a time.

Said Jackson:

“With the protestors and things, since we had some run-ins a little in the past, so we were asked to kind of take a step back during this time and let this, this pass us and then we will be back out.”

The “Violence Interrupters” will reportedly still have a presence if requested at special or small events, but the Minneapolis Office of Violence Prevention told CBS:

“Team leaders will be focusing more time and attention on training and planning from December through March.”

Jackson also stated that the group will be changing how it operates.

Instead of patrolling and going to members of the community, he indicated that the group will be focusing on the young, and looking to have locations where youth can approach the “Violence Interrupters.”

Jackson told CBS that the group is:

“trying to secure some locations where youth can come to us, where we can service them in our spaces as opposed to us being out on the corner.”

He added:

“We had a lot of youth who were really interested in what we had to say, but because of peer pressure they were finding it hard to pull away from their friends to speak their truth, and so that was – that’s why we are pushing heavy with the city to give us the spaces.”

According to the Star Tribune, the “Violence Interrupters” program was funded when the city moved $1.1 million from the police department to the Office of Violence Prevention.  Team members are paid employees of the OVP.

Although the group is sidelined, CBS Minnesota reports that while the city reviews the work that the “Violence Interrupters” have done over the last two months, the 2020 budget includes funds for the program and “ongoing support is anticipated.”

Meanwhile, violence-plagued Minneapolis continues on its quest to defund the police further than it already has, currently to the tune of $18 million, and with an eye to eliminating the Rapid Response Team and the Special Emergency Reaction Team.

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In case you happened to miss it, here is our previous editorial on the Violence Preventers in Minneapolis:

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Well folks, it’s official like a referee’s whistle – Minneapolis has launched their new means to combat violent crime before it stops. Welcome to the era of the “Violence Interrupters”.

Seriously…that’s what the new violence-prevention team is called in Minneapolis; the “Violence Interrupters”. Their mission: stop violence in the streets before it starts.

Whether or not they’ll be successful is a whole different can of worms, but it’s hard not to be a little cynical when examining the methods employed versus the audacious goals looking to be achieved.

So, for those unaware, here’s what the Violence Interrupters are stacked up against in terms of their resources, goals they hope to achieve and the methods they plan to employ in order to be successful in their endeavors.

Their resources are walkie talkies and being “armed with knowledge”. That’s about it in terms of resources. Oh, they’ve also got matching orange shirts.

Their goal is simple to articulate but daring to conquer – stop potentially violent confrontations before they become violent episodes.

And how do they accomplish this you might ask?

Well, they’re going to be hitting the streets looking for scenarios that can possibly go awry in a violent manner and attempt to deescalate situations by talking things out.

Now to be fair, one of the Violence Interrupters named Abdul-Ahad stated that once things get genuinely violent, they’re going to wind up calling the police:

“They respond to emergency situations, gunshots and stab wounds. We aren’t here for that, you know, we are there to prevent things like that from happening, so they won’t have to get called.”

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Now, imagine if you will, a verbal conflict transpiring at some various corner within Minneapolis where two opposing parties are getting heated. Then, one of the Violence Interrupters sees the action about to go down.

They quickly unsheathe their holstered walkie talkie and put out the notice to this team armed with “knowledge” of the developing situation:

“Mayday! Mayday! We’ve got a situation outside of the gas station! Come quick team – lets drop some knowledge on these folks!”

Suddenly, a massive outpouring of orange-shirt wearing Violence Interrupters hit the scene and starts sharing some knowledge with the conflicting parties.

Each member of the team prefaces every piece of knowledge with such taglines like ‘I was once like you’ or ‘there’s a better way to do this’.

Before you know it, everyone who was intent on causing harm to one another is captivated by the wise words delivered by these possessors of such amazing knowledge and collectively say something like:

“You know, I never looked at it like that. I’m going to enroll in college starting tomorrow.”

Does that sound sarcastic and cynical?

Good – that was the idea.

But whoever dreamt this idea of Violence Interrupters up and then mobilized them as such must’ve had a similar scenario play out in their head…except they must have believed something like that would actually happen and work.

In real life, things don’t always work out as well as a scripted speech akin to what Lawrence Fishburne delivered in Boys n the Hood, where simply saying that violence is bad and then someone just hands over the gun they had and embraces a hug.

But even those participating in this new endeavor in Minneapolis think that just because people like the idea of what they’re trying to do then that must mean it’s working. Abdul-Ahad gushed about how people deliver ovations as they walk around the neighborhood:

“We get standing ovations, hand claps, honks and whistles. That gives us the motivation to keep going.”

Heck – I’d likely cheer for them too if I saw them in the street – because even I like what they’re trying to do. I mean, a group can have a noble goal that’s worthy of praise…but they can also have a laughable way of trying to approach the goal.

That’s this author’s position on the matter.

The goal of the Violence Interrupters is a great one. No one is going to think that trying to curb violence is bad.

At the same time, the means to try to achieve that goal is worthy of all the criticism, mocking, puns and so on being lodged against it.

To be so naïve to think that a simple interjection by an unaffiliated party into rising conflict is all of the sudden just going to diffuse said conflict is the epitome of cretinism.

The chances of success in that effort is likely about as high of a success rate as changing someone’s political opinion online in a Facebook comment section after someone delivers a multi-paragraph response as to why they should not vote for “X” candidate.

It’s frankly laughable. But I wish them the best of luck.   

 

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